Tension between Gasperini and Gomez threatening to derail Atalanta's Champions League hopes

Gian Piero Gasperini Alejandro Papu Gomez Atalanta 2020-21Getty/Goal

As Atalanta prepare for a vital clash with Ajax, tension between manager Gian Piero Gasperini and star forward Alejandro Gomez is threatening the club's Champions League campaign.

Gasperini has overseen Atalanta since 2016, having reinvented the club in recent years to guide them towards the top of Serie A with stars like Gomez and Josep Ilicic.

Gomez, meanwhile, has emerged as one of Serie A's top players under Gasperini, having led the league in assists twice in recent years.

However, the relationship between the two has become untenable in recent weeks stemming from an incident during the club's 1-1 draw with Atalanta.

During that match, Atalanta fell behind 1-0, with Gomez struggling to make an impact during the first half. In response, Gasperini asked the Argentine to move to the right to change up Atalanta's attack.

Gomez refused, with Gasperini responding by taking the Argentine out of the game and replacing him with Ilicic. From that moment, the relationship has been tense and may not be totally fixable.

As a result, the club's ownership looks like it may need to choose between coach and player, although Gasperini's relationships with several other players have also deteriorated in recent times. 

In the time since, Gomez had not been called up for Atalanta's visit to Udinese, which was eventually postponed, but the Argentine is set to return to the lineup against Ajax in Wednesday's Champions League crunch match.

The Italian side need at least a draw to stay in the competition, with a loss sending them into the Europa League.

Given the importance of Wednesday's game, Gasperini is prepared to turn to Gomez to lead the attack, but the relationship between the two is nowhere near fixed.

Reports say that the situation could lead to Gomez's departure in January, which would end his six-year stay with the Italian club.

Atalanta currently sit ninth in Serie A, although they do have a game in hand on all of those above them due to the cancellation of the match against Udinese. As things stand, the club is 12 points behind league-leaders AC Milan and six off fourth-place Juventus.

Following Wednesday's Champions League match, Atalanta will play host to Fiorentina this weekend.

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